Body Shop Consulting: A Dying Model

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Most IT consulting shops fall into one of two categories:

Project Shops – where the entire software development project is outsourced to the consulting company to be managed and completed. Sometimes client-side staff members are integrated with this team, but for the most part the software development is the responsibility of the project shop.

Staffing/Staff Augmentation/”Staff-Aug” – meaning where a software development candidate is vetted by the agency, but is employed by or at least managed by the client

Body Shop Consulting

The recruiting and staff augmentation model is losing popularity in the industry – they are going the way of the dinosaur. Dunzo. Those models will henceforth be deemed “Body Shop Consulting.”

We strongly believe in our model – which is project-based, success-based, and driven by our responsibility to get across the goal line. There may be a place for body shop consultants, but there are also various drawbacks, namely that the client and vendor incentives are misaligned.

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A Flawed Model

Typically, the workflow for body shop consulting works like this: the client needs some software development work done so a consulting company is retained to find a candidate developer who can do the work. The agency (that might call themselves a “consulting company”) wants to place one of its developers in a role – here is where the incentives differ. The agency benefits from placing someone as quickly as possible, who is available, costs the least, and can pass whatever minimal standards and hurdles the client company can create to get the person in the door. If that person doesn’t satisfy the customer then often the solution is just to “throw another body at it,” meaning to repeat the same flawed process.

In contrast, a project firm, such as Unstoppable, is much more invested in the success of the actual project. Clients who hire a project firm know that that all parties are focused on delivering successful software. Their incentives and motivations are aligned, because they are on the hook to finish the project just as any structural engineering firm is on the hook to build a building if they say they’re going to do it! With the body shop model, the only commitment is “We’ll provide a warm body, it’s up to you to make it work.”

Core Competencies

Smart companies have realized that it is important to focus on core competencies, those aspects of the company that contribute to the key value proposition. They have learned that trying to grow an in-house software development department, whether with employees or contractors, is much more difficult than originally thought. Software development is a complex, intense job, which must be managed with care. Also, the need for custom software at most companies fluctuates from project to project. So, what happens to all the employed software developers when a project is over? They could hire contractors from a staff augmentation model, but that is difficult to justify when there are reputable firms out there that will flat-rate a project and provide guarantees as in these successful cases.

Plus, what happens if you get a few developers through a staffing firm, but they simply don’t like each other? How can you resolve those personality conflicts? Even worse, what if you get those developers from multiple different staffing agencies? By nature they are therefore competitors inside your doors – and staff-aug consulting outfits reward their developers handsomely if they can “grow the practice” by placing other developers onsite – often at the expense of other companies – which means that instead of acting as team members, those developers may try to subvert each other just to get more of their buddies in the door!

Wouldn’t it be better to work with a team that knows each other, likes each other, and can hit the ground running?

Finding Good Developers

Lastly, the staff augmentation model doesn’t work because the best developers don’t come from staff augmentation agencies. Software developers want to work from home with the best tools and hardware. They do not want to commute to a subpar office, where they are treated as second-class citizens among the client’s employees. They want to work alongside other great developers and gain exposure to a variety of projects and technologies. They do not want to fear the unknown past the project deadline, when a client (and quite-possibly the agency) cuts them loose.

Don’t fall into the trap of hiring from one of these body shop consulting companies. Such a seemingly simple decision can have a deep impact on your project, often dooming it before it can get started.

We believe there’s a better way, and we’d be happy to talk to you about it. Give us a call at 866-237-0911 to discuss your project now, before you hand it over to the warm bodies!

Nathan Stuller
Nathan Stuller

Nathan Stuller is Development Manager and Lead Developer at Unstoppable. He enjoys problem solving for big companies, working in new technologies, and driving our projects to successful completion.

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